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Soriano, Garza gone ­­— no worries for Cubs

Updated: July 28, 2013 11:22PM



SAN FRANCISCO — If the Cubs could manage to keep up the pace they set during their 10-game trip out west, they should have a winning record by Labor Day.

Or run out of players by next week.

The Cubs inexplicably played better as a three-city trip pushed farther west, losing a key veteran at each stop but winning six games, including a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champs in San Francisco.

After a 2-1 victory against the Giants on Sunday, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field on Monday for the first time in more than two weeks — two high-salaried players further from a playoff-caliber look but closer to .500 than they’ve been since May.

With three days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline, there’s no telling who might be left — or how well they might be playing — by August.

“It’s still kind of early, so it’s pretty fresh,” said Travis Wood ­(7-7), who pitched seven innings and homered Sunday. “But I feel like trades always make teams closer. You see guys moving, especially the guys we gave away, especially a leader like [Alfonso] Soriano. Everybody kind of pulls together, and it’s like, ‘We gotta lead this thing and do everything we can to win ballgames.’ ’’

As emotionally drained as the team seemed in Arizona on Thursday night when they learned of Soriano’s trade to the Yankees, it seemed especially charged early Sunday after most of the players watched from a clubhouse lounge area as Soriano hit a home run for his new team.

A huge roar was heard loud enough across the hall in the manager’s office to stop Dale Sveum’s pregame media briefing to find out what was going on.

“We jumped out of our seats because we saw our boy hit a homer,” said catcher Welington Castillo, whose own homer — his first in a month — put the Cubs ahead in the seventh. “I was so happy for him.”

But turning that loss into being better? Stronger? Tighter?

“It’s just been fun,” said Nate Schierholtz, who had two final-inning, game-winning hits on the trip — but could be traded before he gets the chance for another. “We go out there loose and have nothing to lose. It’s a fun young group of guys, and we all get along great.”

It still doesn’t quite explain knocking the Diamondbacks out of first place the day they traded their best pitcher (Matt Garza) to the Texas Rangers and sent Chris Rusin to the mound instead. Or starting a three-game sweep of the Giants the first day without cleanup hitter ­Soriano around.

Junior Lake began his big-league career the day the trip started and had 15 hits in his first 30 at-bats. But he hasn’t had a hit since being ordained Soriano’s replacement. No. 3 hitter Anthony Rizzo still hasn’t stepped up (.184 on the trip) to fill the run-production void. Dioner Navarro was tried in the cleanup spot Saturday for the second time in his career.

“I can’t remember having this kind of trip on the West Coast,” ­Sveum said. “To win six out of 10 on the West Coast, I don’t care how good a team you are, it’s one of the hardest things to do in baseball. And obviously, a couple of trades, mixing guys in, fixing, patchwork. Somehow we pitched good enough. That just goes to show you what we talk about with starting pitching and the bullpen. That’s what it takes to win.”



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